Tuesday, July 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Family seeks $20 million in Travis air show death

APTOPIX Air Show Plane Crash

A worker fights a fire after a vintage biplane crashed upside-down on a runway at an air show at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., Sunday, May 4, 2014. The pilot, Edward Andreini, 77, of Half Moon Bay, was killed when the plane, flying low over the tarmac, crashed and caught fire. (AP Photo/Bryan Stokes)

By
From page A1 | July 18, 2014 |

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — The family of stunt pilot Eddie Andreini, who died of burns after his 1944 Super Stearman biplane crashed at the Thunder Over Solano open house and air expo May 4 at Travis, has filed claims against the federal government seeking $10 million for Andreini’s wife Linda and $5 million each for his sons, Mario and Edward Jr.

Representatives of Andreini’s family filed the three wrongful death claims with Travis Air Force Base.

“Mr. Andreini died as a result of the rescue and firefighting services’ failure to extinguish the fire and rescue Mr. Andreini from the aircraft in a timely or reasonable manner in accordance with applicable standards, directives and orders,” the claims states.

The stunt pilot hit the runway during an inverted ribbon-cut maneuver and slid before stopping, according to the claims. Andreini was trapped in the wreckage and asked for assistance, the claim adds, and the aircraft caught on fire. He died of extensive thermal injuries, the claim states.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower of the Travis Air Force Base Public Affairs Office, said Thursday, “Although we have no comment at this time, we will make every effort to release any information (about the crash) as it becomes available.”

The autopsy report, filed as part of the claims, states that Andreini’s body was under the burned aircraft.

Fourteen witnesses are listed in part of the claims. They include two colonels at Travis Air Force Base and Steve Stavrakakis of Wild Thing Airshows in Salida.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators concluded in a preliminary report that it took fire crews three to four minutes to get to the crash site.

Fire was seen in footage of the crash just before the aircraft came to a stop. Flames engulfed most of the plane’s right side within 50 seconds, according to the preliminary report.

Andreini, a regular performer at Travis’ open house air shows, was killed in the solo aircraft accident on the second day of the Thunder Over Solano event.

Ian Thompson and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or rmcarthy@dailyrepublic.net.

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Discussion | 37 comments

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  • 2realJuly 18, 2014 - 5:13 am

    Really? Look, sorry for their loss but no one forced that 77 year old man in that plane. Its his own fault. U play with fire, your bound to get burned.

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  • Just meJuly 18, 2014 - 8:54 am

    Agree!

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  • Dave LJuly 18, 2014 - 10:05 am

    This man died because the fire trucks took nearly 5 minutes to reach him. I know this because it happened right in front of me. I watched for that amount of time while he burned to death. If you are responsible for planning an event where there is a fire danger such as an air show, car race etc. it is a duty to make sure that fire fighting assets are located such that they are useful and NOT located nearly 5 minutes away. If your father was in a car race, for example, and you watched him burn to death because fire equipment was not located where it should be because of extremely bad planning maybe you would also sue the administrator of that race.

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  • TimJuly 18, 2014 - 12:43 pm

    He died because he crashed an airplane into the ground. The plane was in flames before it even came to a stop. Even if firefighters were riding co-pilot, I doubt if anything could have been done. What response time would be acceptable to you? 4 min? 3? Could this pilot have been saved if they were 1 minute out? Who knows...and what condition would he be in after only a few moments of being in a burning fuselage? The whole thing was an accident...simple as that. Firefighters, event planners, the USAF are not to blame. He crash-landed an airplane that immediatley erupted into flames.

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  • Dave LJuly 18, 2014 - 1:29 pm

    If your family member was an entertainer in a sport where there are well known risks of fire (lets say drag racing) how long after an accident is an acceptable response time for you as you watch your family member burn to death? In this case the fire trucks should have been located near runway as in most well planned air shows NOT located the other side of spectators so that response was delayed by 5 minutes. Maybe you are not aware of reports that crew members and fellow pilots heard Mr. Andreini call over the radio that he was fine but was trapped and needed help.

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  • JakeJuly 18, 2014 - 3:00 pm

    So should the fire trucks have been placed further away from the spectators and closer to the action? What if we had a repeat of what happened during the Nevada airshow where spectators were killed. People would probably be complaining that the fire trucks were too far out in the airfield to get to them.

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  • Dave LJuly 18, 2014 - 3:39 pm

    Fire trucks placed closer to the runway would have EQUAL access to either the spectators OR the location of this accident. Large airports such as Travis AFB have multiple trucks anyway, do you really think the best place for ALL of them is well behind the spectators? Reno Nevada was an air race NOT an airshow, it has inherently more risk, but still requires reasonable fire equipment positioning. There are rules and suggestions by the FAA regarding airshows, it is possible that these were not followed in this instance.

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  • MDSJuly 18, 2014 - 5:39 pm

    The AIr Force does not put fire engines close to the runway as they don't want the trucks destroyed in the crash. Remember there were also very large aircraft flying that day, such as the C-5. That is standard procedure.

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  • Dave LJuly 18, 2014 - 6:09 pm

    There is no excuse for the extremely poor response time in this case. Certainly not on the basis of size of aircraft. It could have been an air force aircraft burning on that runway (C5 or otherwise) with our servicemen burning to death. The FAA is clear about Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) in the case of airshows -- ARFF capability Air Show Event Ground Operations Plan -:  Pre-positioning during air show preparation to allow timely response and clear access to the movement area.

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  • MDSJuly 18, 2014 - 10:50 pm

    With all due respect Dave L you don't know what you're talking about. The FAA does not require the Air Force to put fire trucks at show center. The fire trucks are required to be staged in a location where it is the least likely they will be damaged in the crash of an airplane. Also, how exactly would the even know where an airplane is going to crash? The runways at Travis are end to end and it's over four miles from one end to the other. Crashes could occur at any location along the runway or any location within the pattern. They can't be every where.

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  • Dave LJuly 18, 2014 - 11:53 pm

    I did not say that the FAA requires the air force to do anything.The FAA jurisdiction is complex with regard to the military and their rules concerning safety do not necessarily apply to air or ground operations at an air force base. However, the rules are there to make the skies and the ground operations safer for everyone at all other airports so if the military chooses not to follow these rules, even if not required to do so, it could possibly be regarded as negligence in a civil court setting. The probability of an air crash near the runway is much higher than any other location. The Aerobatic Box is the airspace at an air show where participating aircraft are authorized to perform aerobatic maneuvers, it is placed so as to lower the possibility of hitting spectators (over the runway and away from spectators). I do know a little about the subject I am commenting on here, I have many thousands of hours in the air and hold several FAA certificates and more. I resent being told I don't know what I am talking about. This is about an extremely poor response time by Travis AFB to extinguish an aircraft fire that resulted in loss of life. If you want to tell me that 5 minutes is an ok response time then go ahead - but it simply isn't ok period!!!!

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  • MDSJuly 19, 2014 - 8:11 pm

    Dave L, you may know airplanes, but you don't know fire fighting or emergency response. I do. You even admit the most likely location of the crash is along the runways. And in fact this stunt pilot was using up much of that space during his show. Like I said, the runways a Travis are 11,000 feet long each and are end to end. That's 22,000 feet of runway. Where exactly should the fire engines be placed to they could respond to any crash within 30 seconds? Didn't they have some in the middle and some out at either end? So like I told you, their first rule is don't stage the emergency equipment where it will be damaged or destroyed in a crash. I believe that is exactly what they did at Travis. I used to fly into Travis on those huge planes and on several occasions came in with an emergency. The fire trucks would be standing by near the approach end of the runway even thought they knew good and well that if we needed them it would be two miles away at the other end of the runway. We would still be in the air as we passed the fire trucks and then those big slow trucks would follow us down the runway. We were doing 140 knots and they were doing 50 mph. It took them quite a while to get to where we stopped. And that was all done so that in the event we did crash the aircraft and debris would be going away from them so they could live to try and save our lives. Sorry you don't like it, but that's just the way it works. Firefighters are no good to anybody if they're all dead.

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  • Dave LJuly 20, 2014 - 12:09 am

    MDS, If, as you stated, you know about aircraft rescue fire fighting (ARFF) then I am sure you are aware that the FAA set a standard way back in 1988 of a 3 minute response time to deliver the first fire apparatus to the scene of a crash. That was 26 years ago!! The ICAO publishes recommendations that the operational objective of the rescue and fire fighting service should be to achieve a response time not exceeding two (2) minutes to any point of each operational runway, in optimum visibility and surface conditions. The International Association of Fire Fighters has requested that the 1988 FAA time of 3 minutes be revised to NFPA 403 standards of two (2) minutes. These times are for NORMAL operations NOT an airshow setting where risks are increased considerably and ARFF should be on a higher alert status. Travis ARFF took five (5) minutes to reach the crash scene, thats a 67% longer time than a standard set back in 1988 and 2.5 times the newer ICAO and NFPA standards. The NTSB has already stated that it will be investigating not only the cause of the crash but the ARFF response time also. Just to put all this in perspective in the recent Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash at SFO the first ARFF unit arrived within 3 minutes of impact and that crash occurred off the end of an 11,000 foot runway.

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  • MDSJuly 20, 2014 - 7:57 am

    The runways at SFO are not end to end. In fact the fire department at SFO is located near the intersections of all of their runways so it is less than a mile from any point on the runways. The FAA can set all the standards they like, but unless they can invent a 200 mph fire engine those response times can't be achieved at many airports.

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  • Dave LJuly 20, 2014 - 11:48 am

    This has very little to do with the length of Travis runways, it is all about the planning prior to an airshow. The majority of the airshow aerobatics took place above a small portion of only one runway (the aerobatic safety box). The reports indicate that fire trucks were positioned behind the crowd of spectators instead of on inactive taxiways where they would have had clear and unobstructed access. I am unable to find out how many ARFF assets are located at Travis but one at least of those assets should have been closer to the runway (not behind the crowd). All of this may become part of the final NTSB report. A response time of 5 minutes is simply too long.

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  • MDSJuly 20, 2014 - 3:03 pm

    The reports I read said the first engine arrived in 4 minutes and 15 seconds. There was a guy on scene with a fire extinguisher before that. Would this pilot been alive today with a 3 minute response? We don't know do we. He may not even be alive with a 2 minute response. It have taken a fire engine pre-staged right directly at the crash site and shooting foam on the plane as soon as it came to a stop to have saved him and even that is an unknown.

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  • MDSJuly 20, 2014 - 3:14 pm

    And just for the record Dave L, I'm really not arguing that the response time was excessive because it does appear to have been a little excessive. I also think they could have pre-positioned the emergency equipment better. However, even with better positioning and keeping in mind the Air Force rules about keeping the emergency equipment far enough back so as not to be involved in any accident, I think at best they could have shaved a minute off. I don't think that's enough to have saved the guy.

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  • Dave LJuly 20, 2014 - 11:05 pm

    MDS, Have to agree with you on your last comment. Although the response time improvement could be determined with a fair degree of accuracy by considering different positioning and state of readiness it is far more difficult to determine if those improvements would have saved his life.

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  • BaseballmomJuly 18, 2014 - 11:04 am

    Thank you. A tragic accident, accident, accident… But everyone wants to try and get money for an accident…

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  • Irving ScheckleJuly 18, 2014 - 5:53 am

    What a bunch of litigious BUMS.

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  • Keith ScallyJuly 18, 2014 - 6:37 am

    It is to early to be pointing fingers, or making rude comments. A man died, his family is in a tough spot. If something that could have saved a life was not done properly it need to be scrutinized. The legal process may be slow, but it is efficient. All the details will come out for stark review.

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  • MDSJuly 19, 2014 - 8:16 pm

    And that will all be done in an investigation into the accident. A lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to get money, not investigate the accident. What lawsuits like this do is ruin things for everybody. If all future Travis airshows aren't canceled at the very least you won't see any civilian aircraft performing at the base any longer because of this suit. And even though this stunt pilot is dead, knowing that type of person, I bet he would be the last one to want to see that happen.

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  • DotJuly 18, 2014 - 8:04 am

    How in the world is this the government's fault this man died? The man died doing what he loved. I hope I am as fortunate. What's a shame is that his family is trying to make a buck off it.

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  • sprdJuly 18, 2014 - 8:23 am

    Sad but unless there is some gross negligence. There should be no award. Ambulance chasers are scum of the earth. They latched on to a grieving family. He died doing what he loved. In some many cases all this gets settled out of court and the low life attorneys still get rich. Go to the bottom of the sea and pick up a pile of whale poop; under it you will find attorneys and car salesmen.

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  • BulldogJuly 18, 2014 - 8:43 am

    AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL! Where if your pissed all you have to do is SUE! What a Joke!!!!

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  • Mr.RJuly 18, 2014 - 8:44 am

    I have to protest that comment,not all lawyers are bad. I'm sure that the pilot signed a waiver to release the gov. of all liability After all they may be stupid but,their not dumb.

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  • weaverwomanJuly 18, 2014 - 5:59 pm

    Unless the law has changed, it doesn't matter how many "wavers" a person might sign, they are not binding in a court of law since no one can wave away survivors benefits.

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  • TerryJuly 18, 2014 - 9:32 am

    In all reality, I’m sure Mr. Andreini was not under the assumption that a fire truck would be at a crash site seconds later no matter where he was. Sorry but life is not that perfect. Suing for millions of dollars could very well do away with future air shows and I am sure that’s the last thing Mr. Andreini would have wanted. The family has been swayed by the cash carrot and there are plenty of lawyers ready to play along for a big chunk of that money.

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  • omydarling21July 18, 2014 - 12:08 pm

    There was never going to be another air show in Fairfield ever again the second this plane crashed.

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  • MDSJuly 18, 2014 - 5:42 pm

    That is not true. There have been crashes at military air shows before and the shows have continued. However, I think what you will see happen is a nation-wide ban on civilian aircraft on Military bases performing in airshows, all thanks to this lawsuit.

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  • JimboJuly 18, 2014 - 3:36 pm

    It is going to be pretty damned hard for this gold digging family to prove to a court that the stunt pilot even still alive from the impact and died solely from burns.

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  • DebbieJuly 18, 2014 - 3:53 pm

    When you fly stunts like that, you take a risk. I think it's wrong and greedy to sue someone for something like this.

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  • Phil WilhelmJuly 21, 2014 - 10:32 am

    It appears what we have here is a two sided argument between Dave L and MSD (Where I live MSD is an acronym for Metropolitan Sewer District.) I would be nice to see logical discussions instead to two people duking it out in a public forum.

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  • archieJuly 18, 2014 - 7:26 pm

    Total BS!!!!!!!!!!! The family should have to pay for the divot he left in the runway

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  • Phil WilhelmJuly 21, 2014 - 10:05 am

    I'm a Stearman pilot and have been for over thirty years. No, I don't fly at air shows and yes I know that it can be a dangerous sport. But one who flies accepts the danger and calculates the risk vs. benefits. You do the same thing ever time you get in a car or walk through a door. You determine the risk vs. the benefit and usually drive a car or walk through a door. We will never know why he crashed. He definitely had good equipment, airplane. He had an oversize engine, probably a 400 or 450 hp, and a good and proven airframe. If I had been flying that day, I would have thought that rescue equipment would have been able to reach me in thirty to forty-five seconds or less. It’s clear they didn’t and I agree with the lawsuit. It will be interesting to see the outcome. I regret a fellow aviator, any aviator, dying. And, there is no satisfaction in saying he died doing what he loved.

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  • CD BrooksJuly 21, 2014 - 10:17 am

    On the one hand, in was performing risky maneuvers and an insurance company probably wouldn't pay off. On the other hand, is the base FD responsible for not getting there sooner? There could have been all kinds of disclosures and release papers signed prior to the event. Military and civilian law are different and this will be interesting. I'm not knowledgeable about military law, placement of emergency equipment and policy concerning either. I'm going to guess the case gets tossed.

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  • Dave LJuly 21, 2014 - 12:13 pm

    The Boeing Stearman is truly a legendary airplane which was used to train so many pilots of the WW2 era. The Stearman also makes an excellent airshow performer especially with 450 hp or more. I certainly agree with Phil that risk acceptance / management is part of every pilots thinking. But one risk this pilot probably was not aware of prior to performing was that should he become trapped and his airplane catches fire on the runway it will take a full 5 minutes for fire and rescue to reach him. Maybe he would still have performed knowing that risk, maybe not - we will never know.

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